Will world leaders finally commit to solving the environmental crisis?


Today, 20 of the world’s most powerful nations will meet at the annual G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. From June 28 to 29, 2019, important industrialized and developing countries will participate in the event. These countries will include nations like Germany, China and the United States. During the two-day meeting, representatives will discuss key issues present in the global economy. While addressing themes such as jobs, trade and investment, this year’s agenda takes a greener turn. Alongside other important topics, “environment and energy” is listed as a major theme for the G20 summit, where many world leaders will start.

Past G20 Summits

Climate change has been a recurring topic at the G20 summit since 2014.

This is not the first time that the environment has caught the attention of world leaders. In fact, climate change has been a recurring topic at the G20 summit since 2014. Since then, much progress has been made. As nations move forward together to tackle the environmental problem, the past 5 years have seen promising efforts.

Here’s what we know from previous G20 summits:

  • November 15-16, 2014 — Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    • Although not on the official agenda, Europe and the United States are beginning to pressure the group to take action against climate change.
  • September 4-5, 2016 — Hangzhou, China
    • The United States and China ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. The two countries are currently the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Announcing the support of the United States, President Obama said the agreement was “[giving us] the best possible shot to save the planet that we have”.
  • July 7-8, 2017 — Hamburg, Germany
    • The 2017 meeting had a strong focus on climate change. Despite Obama’s commitment in the past, President Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Although it has left many leaders fearing the global fate, future talks acknowledge the one-year waiting period before a withdrawal takes effect. With that, the earliest the US can officially exit the deal is November 4, 2020.
  • November 30 – December 1, 2018 — Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • Through this meeting, all countries, with the exception of the United States, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

It is clear that the Paris Climate Agreement is one of the Summit’s greatest successes to date. As of January 2019, 184 parties have ratified the agreement and pledged to fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the agreement. The most important of these responsibilities is to ensure that the global temperature does not rise another 2 degrees Celsius. If such an increase were to occur, it would mean [detrimental] fate of ecosystems around the world.

Support for climate reform intensifies ahead of G20

In the days leading up to the G20 summit, many of the 20 nations are affirming their support for climate change reform. Taking powerful positions across the world, world leaders are creating change through actions, not just words.

Threats from France

From Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron has threatened not to sign any joint G20 summit statement unless it addresses the environmental issue.

President Emmanuel Macron is threatening not to sign any joint declaration from the G20 summit unless it addresses the environmental issue.
President Emmanuel Macron is threatening not to sign any joint declaration from the G20 summit unless it addresses the environmental issue.

Last Wednesday, Mr Macron noted that climate change is a “red line”. Addressing a group of French citizens in Japan, he threatens that “if [the group doesn’t] talk about the Paris agreement, and if, to reach an agreement at 20, we are no longer able to defend our climate objectives, it will be without France”.

Continuing to speak to his people, he alluded to the unofficial rejection of the deal by the United States. Without naming President Trump, Mr. Macron asserts that “some will not sign, that is their business. But we must not collectively lose our ambitions”.

Japan is catching up

Despite hosting the G20 summit, Japan has a lot of work to do when it comes to environmental policy. Unfortunately, the country has a big plastic problem.

Last summer, Japan was one of two countries that did not sign the G-7 Plastics Charter. At the time, they were heavily criticized for rejecting the legislation. However, Japan is finally taking a stand.

In the final months leading up to the two-day event, Japanese officials have been working to catch up with other countries. While countries like Canada, China, and the United States have had plastic policies in place in the past, Japan is just getting started.

At rapid speed, the officials pump out the endorsements. Soon the ideas of banning single-use plastics, finding alternatives to plastic and cleaning up beaches will become a reality.

G20 leaders must act

Environmental policy is a topic that is not going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, every day that passes without reform threatens the health of man and nature. There is no doubt, time is getting limited. However, there is no doubt that world leaders are acknowledging the seriousness of the problem.

The next two days have the potential to create global and lasting solutions for the planet. Hopefully the 20 nations representing the world will act accordingly.


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